From One Class Mate To Another. “Its OK To Be Different”

 In Friendships

“GOING TO SCHOOL WITH MY FRIEND DARCY”
INTERVIEW WITH AND REFLECTION FROM JACK MOLONEY

Whenever I think about, talk about and remember Darcy’s experience at mainstream school with Langwarrin Park Primary School I always think about how it made us feel and how Darcy felt.

 

 

Even though Darcy has Down Syndrome, it was something we wanted to try so he could experience what his brothers did in their primary years. We wanted to try and give him some different opportunities in another setting, and we were happy with whatever those opportunities might be. Much to our delight, that’s what happened.

He did all 7 years of primary school part time in mainstream and he did it so very well. We only anticipated he would do 3-4 years, but he went all the way to Grade 6 and graduated.
With the support from the school, his beautiful Trudi and the kids, his experience was amazing.
I always used to look at the kids he went there with and think how wonderful they were.
An exceptional group of kids that were very accepting and keen to teach him and be his friends.
As the last couple of years have gone by and they’re becoming older, I often wonder what they thought of Darcy going to school with them. How did they feel having him as a peer with them, even though it was part time.

Did they enjoy having him there? Did they enjoy teaching him games and other things in the classroom? Thankfully, we are still in contact with a couple of the children he went to school with, so I decided to ask one of them some of the questions I had. I contacted my friend Chantal and asked if Jack would mind if I asked him some questions and maybe wrote his own reflections about his days at school with Darcy. We had already planned a catch up and that seemed like the perfect time to do it.

Watching Darcy and Jack hang out was the best. It was like no time had passed and they just picked up where they left the last time they saw each other.
I loved this because this is what it is like with great friends. After they had hung out together for a while, it was time to do my interview with Jack….

1. Me: You didn’t begin primary school with Darcy because you were at a different school. How old were you and what year level was it that you first started at LPPS and met Darcy?
Jack: I came to LPPS half way through the year of Grade 4, so we were 10 years old.

2. Me: Had you ever been at school with someone with a disability before?
Jack: No I hadn’t.

3. Me: How did you find being at school with Darcy?
Jack: I found it very enjoyable. And because he only came to our school for one day a week, I used to really look forward to it. I couldn’t wait for him to get to school so we could start playing.

4. Me: What is one of your favourite memories of Darcy at school?
Jack: My favourite memories with Darcy are out in the playground. We loved playing tiggy with him and four square at snack and lunch. I also really enjoyed doing all the sport days with him. I loved watching him try and never give up and I enjoyed how we all encouraged him with cheering and lots of hi-5’s when he was finished.

5. Me: Did you enjoy having him on camp with you?
Jack: Yes, loved having him on camp with us. Some of the things we had to do he would find a bit hard, so we would all help him with Trudi. Also, because he is a little different to everyone else and we got to stay with him overnight, I think it helped to make everyone learn to be more accepting and to see that he was just like us in most ways.

6. Me: Did you enjoy having him at school with you?
Jack: Yes definitely. Because he only came to our school one day a week, we all really looked forward to seeing him. He’s a very funny and friendly boy and I think having him at school with us taught us to learn that everyone is different and it’s ok.

7. Me: What would you say to other kids if they find themselves in a classroom with a child with a disability?
Jack: I would tell them it’s ok that they’re different and it’s ok to play with them and teach them things. Don’t be afraid, because you will be surprised what people can do if you give them a chance.

8. Me: Do you think it was a good thing going to school with Darcy and do you think he would have done alright in high school?
Jack: It was great going to school with him. I was sad when I found out he wasn’t coming to the same high school even for one day as week. I think it would have been good for him because we all knew him and there’s more people so he would have made heaps of new friends.

9. Me: Did you mind that he was developmentally behind all the other kids? Did that matter?
Jack: No, I didn’t mind at all and it didn’t matter. It was good because it made us think of other ways to include him in activities so he was always part of the class and our friend groups.

10. Me: Can you see yourself still being friends with Darcy in the future?
Jack: Oh yes I can because he’s funny, he’s nice and everyone loves him. And he’s my friend.

 

I loved doing this with Jack. It was really nice for me to hear what he and the other kids thought about having Darcy at school with them.
They really were remarkable kids and Darcy never felt excluded by them in any way. They were always more than happy to help him, and as they got older, they didn’t really need to help him too much. He just did what they did because they’d been doing it for so long together.
I will leave you with this reflection from Jack….

JACKS STORY

I started at Langwarrin Park Primary School in July 2016 when I was in grade 4. I met Darcy in the playground at lunch time while we were playing tiggy. Darcy was always happy, smiling and laughing as we played. Everybody loved playing with Darcy, and as we went into Grade 5, Darcy would often join us in a game of four square. To start with, we let Darcy play without really understanding the rules, then we taught him the rules and where to stand and why we were out. It didn’t take him long to learn the rules. Darcy loves four square.
In the classroom in year six I was lucky enough to have Darcy as one of my classmates. He would attend school at LPPS every Wednesday, and we all looked forward to it so much.
Darcy had Trudi as his helper and always participated in everyday class activities. Darcy was just like the rest of us, a happy young tween.
Before we knew it, graduation was here. The applause that Darcy got as he graduated primary school was insane. We were all so proud of him. I knew Darcy would not be coming to secondary school with us and that made me sad, but I understood.

As I ventured off to secondary school, even though he wasn’t coming to that school with me, I knew Darcy and I would be friends forever.

“GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE AND WATCH THEM SHINE”

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